Which Clarinet? A view from the UK

What follows was received from a clarinetist in the United Kingdom. I found it interesting and informative,without reflecting prejudice, while attempting to rank many  instruments.
“I think that you need to approach this topic from a rational standpoint i.e. what does is sound like to you and your critical listeners. Any argument from any other clarinet player uses is really irrelevant, especially when players are sponsored or otherwise rewarded by playing a certain instrument. As for makers using wood as opposed to ebonite (hard rubber) then there is a vested interest in marketing wooden instruments, not least the need to replace them as they wear out/crack and so on.
I personally use a Ridenour Lyrique RCP-5768C Bb ebonite clarinet . I have tested this instrument (with the same mouthpiece and reeds) against a wide variety of clarinets, everything from the cheapest ABS Buffet B-10, through all Buffet models, up to and including the R13 Tosca, Vintage, Prestige and so on; various Selmer models, all Yamaha models and several Leblanc models (though not the high end since they are not stocked locally). My conclusions are as follows: For focused sound, evenness and intonation, only the Leblanc Sonata came close – most of the Buffet models were either uninspiring (Tosca) or uneven (R13 standard and below), as well as being poor in intonation throughout the registers. One R13 Prestige was exceptional and was arguably richer in the Chalameau register than the Lyrique, though not quite as even through all the registers.
My conclusion is that for me at any rate, the Lyrique offers a blend of evenness, intonation and quality of sound unrivalled at any price. It does suffer however, in that it does not have the “ego” factor of a high-end wooden instrument such as a Buffet R13 Prestige or Tosca,
It also does not need so much loving attention, nor does it suffer from atmospheric changes like a wooden instrument. If you want to buy a wooden instrument then you MUST test them yourselves with your own mouthpiece and reeds – every instrument is different and some are poor, no matter what the price. I know several orchestral musicians, and they test many instruments before selecting one – most will only buy from the factory. They know how variable wooden instruments are and cannot afford to have a poor instrument. Most of us cannot do this and would be better off with the consistency of an instrument like a Lyrique.
Remember, that when metal woods were first introduced in golf the purists ridiculed them until they saw how effective they were. in golf however, there is an absolute measure i.e. distance and accuracy, whereas in music there is much “smoke and mirrors”.
Please let your ears rule in choosing between a professional instrument such as a Lyrique or a high-end wooden clarinet.”
I think it is pertinent that the writer speaks of really great differences in clarinets at the high wooden end of the selection. I have fond this to be especially true, most frequently with Buffet This has been the norm for as long as I can remember. In order to get a good one, you have to try many. Selmers to be always much more consistent. As far as the best playing clarinet, it really has always been Leblanc. They are even and have excellent tuning and finishing. The current models are almost prohibitive to buy, but they are indeed a very good instrument. I have an LL, just overhauled which is in my mind, a gorgeous clarinet, and also a VSP, not usually thought of as being a top-line horn, but this one is.
Readers are aware that I too play a Lyrique (set of) clarinet. I play them for the same reasons listed above.If you try 5 or 10, the relationship between each is almost indiscernible.
Good luck with all your work, and always practice.


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